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Recycling Up and Trash Down

Release Date: 10/23/2006
Contact Information: Roxanne Smith, (202) 564-4355 / smith.roxanne@epa.gov

(Washington, D.C. - Oct. 23, 2006) Americans are recycling more and throwing away less according to a new report released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, speaking today at the National Recycling Coalition Conference in Atlanta, announced that the U.S. recycled 32 percent of its waste in 2005. Including composting, Americans recycled 79 million tons, representing a 2 percent increase from 2004 and a huge jump from 16 percent in 1990.

"President Bush and EPA are transforming our throw-away culture into a recycling culture," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "Environmental responsibility is everyone's responsibility. And with our partners like the National Recycling Coalition, we are encouraging individuals and businesses to embrace their environmental responsibility to recycle."

In all, Americans generated nearly 246 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2005 – a decrease of nearly 2 million tons from 2004. The decrease is due in part to the decline in individual waste generation to about 4.5 pounds per person per day, representing a 1.5 percent decrease from 2004. In addition to generating less waste, individuals recycled nearly 1.5 pounds per person per day.

Other data contained in the report show recycling trends across the board are generally up:

  • Container and packaging recycling increased to 40 percent;
  • Nearly 62 percent of yard waste was composted; and
  • About 42 million tons of paper were recycled—a 50 percent recycling rate.

EPA has collected and reported on data going back to 1960 on the generation and disposal of waste in the United States. The information is used to measure the success of municipal solid waste reduction and recycling programs across the country. The data also shows where the nation needs to make improvements in municipal waste management.

Executive Summary of the report: epa.gov/msw/msw99.htm

Information on trends in municipal solid waste: epa.gov/msw/facts.htm